No more salmon for Steve Hutchinson. One day after taking a publicized tour of Seahawks headquarters in Renton, tantalizing the team's fans with a possible return, and also one day after the Seahawks discarded guard Robert Gallery, seemingly to make room for Hutchinson, the free-agent, All-Pro guard joined the Tennessee Titans.
Gallery left Oakland and signed a three-year deal in July, reuniting him with Seahawks assistant Tom Cable. Seattle made Gallery the team's starting left guard (Hutchinson's position). But he played most of the season (12 starts) with a variety of injuries. In the wake of Gallery's infirmities, and in the absence of guaranteed money, the Seahawks brought in Paul McQuistan, who wound up starting at three positions.
On Wednesday, the Seahawks cut Gallery, re-signed McQuistan and hosted Hutchinson, who teased, then fled.
Hutchinson, at 34 three years older than Gallery, signed a three-year deal with the Titans, who currently employ former Seattle quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck (Seahawks) and Jake Locker(Huskies). No reason was given for his choice, but the contract length seems important, as does the potential hire of QB Peyton Manning.
This marks the second time that Hutchinson, whom the Seahawks selected in the first round of the 2001 NFL draft (along with WR Koren Robinson), has stiffed/bamboozled his former team.
Shortly after the Seahawks' appearance in Super Bowl XL (early 2006), Hutchinson, then a three-time All-Pro guard, signed an offer sheet with the Minnesota Vikings that contained a "poison pill" clause the Seahawks could not match (it mandated that Hutchinson had to be the highest-paid lineman on his team at a time when the Seahawks employed Walter Jones, then at the height of his career).
Hutchinson went on to to be named All-Pro four more times with the Vikings before they released recently in the wake of a youth movement and out of salary-cap considerations. Hutchinson made more than $6 million.
That's what brought Hutchinson, one of Shaun Alexander's principal blockers in Alexander's 2005 MVP season, to Seattle Wednesday, a day after he was courted by the Titans.
No sooner did Hutchinson arrive than the Seahawks released Gallery. About as fast as Gallery became fresh meat in NFL free agency, Hutchinson announced for the Titans.
While the Seahawks hosted Hutchinson, they have not issued any public statement on the degree to which they wooed him, if at all. For all anyone (outside the Seahawks) knows, they might have only kicked tires. Tennessee kicked and liked.
"I have evaluated hundreds of players coming out of college in my time as a coach, and he may have been the finest college guard I have watched," said Tennessee head coach Mike Munchak, who is a Hall of Fame guard himself. "I still see him playing at a high level, even in his 11th NFL season. He brings experience and success to our line and into the locker room. He is just an all-around good football player and we are excited to have him."
Hutchinson, who made 14 starts last season that ended early with a concussion, is regarded by most of pro football's cognoscenti as an automatic for the Hall of Fame the first year he is eligible.
NFL FREE AGENCY NOTES: Pass-rush specialist Mario Williams (ex-Texans), thought to be on Seattle's radar at the start of free agency, signed a six-year, $100 million deal with Buffalo, $50 million guaranteed . . . QB Peyton Manning, who spent six hours (each) visiting with the Broncos and Cardinals, spent eight hours visiting with the Tennessee Titans Wednesday. Hasselbeck (and this won't surprise any Seahawks follower, said Thurday, "I'm totally comfortable with the Titans pursing Peyton Manning."